When investigating a truck accident, the first issue that an attorney should address is whether the truck was equipped with an Electronic Control Module (“ECM”) device or Global Position System (‘GPS”), and if so, what kind. There are a variety of ECM modules that provide and record different types of information, and finding out what system a truck had, if any, and making sure the trucking company preserves that data, is important if a lawsuit is filed regrading the truck accident and the casue of the truck accident is disputed.
The precursors of the modern ECMS and GPS were on-board diagnostic systems that were installed in trucks in the 1980’s. A truck’s on-board diagnostic system is basically computer software that had been installed into the on-board computer in order to monitor and control the truck’s engines and emissions. With these on-board diagnostic systems, also known as electronic control modules or ECMs, various information can be monitored including:
1. Starting air pressure
2. Filtered/unfiltered engine oil pressure
3. Oil temperature
4. Coolant level/temperature
5. Crank case pressure
6. Fuel temperature
7. Inlet air temperature
8. Engine speed
9. Cylinder exhaust temperature
10. Exhaust stack temperature, and
11. Ignition timing
This information not only helps mechanics to repair the engines, but provides for advanced data recovery technology that can be essential in accident reconstruction. The increased ability for additional information to be recorded and the data collected can be considerable importance for trucking companies to monitor the performance and compliance of their employees, the truck driver, with safety regulations. As the early computer systems became more sophisticated, they came with the ability to monitor both the behavior of the truck as well as the driver’s habits, and essentially have become the truck’s “flight recorder” when doing accident reconstruction.
There are currently many different ECM software systems.

For example, a software system called GlobalTracs transmits equipment engine hours and location data at regular user defined intervals or on demand. The data can be accessed via the Internet or the system can be integrated into existing business systems.
A software called FleetAdvisor supports full function on-board computing, electronic department of transportation logs, state line crossing, vehicle tracking, and real time wireless communication.
TruckMAIL was designed for smaller trucking fleets. It provides two way communication and satellite tracking. Drivers can read and send text messages from the display unit in the cab and dispatchers monitor vehicle location and send and receive messages.
All of these systems, and there are many more, have the same basic features and just different varieties of services. Typically a vehicle using one of these types of software would be fitted with a monitoring system responsible for gathering information from various monitors placed on the tractor, trailer, and cargo. The monitoring system’s exact location is made possible for using a global positioning system receiver. Some of these systems automatically download data from trucks returning to a terminal.